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Large Electronics Banned on Some International Flights to the U.S. and UK

The United States and United Kingdom have banned nearly all electronics larger than a phone from flights originating from several African and Middle Eastern countries. The ban will include carry-on laptops, tablets, electronic book readers, and cameras, but those devices will still be allowed in checked baggage. A U.S. Department of Homeland Security official told the BBC that the ban was based on “evaluated intelligence,” likely related to reports that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is trying to build bombs with little or no metal content to target commercial aircraft.favicon follow link

 

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barefootguru  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-03-21 17:16
Aviation industry confirms it won't help, and in fact makes flights more dangerous https://avherald.com/h?article=4a67fce7&opt=1024
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Dave Scocca  2017-03-21 17:22
The Washington Post suggests this is more about putting foreign carriers

at a competitive disadvantage than about actual security:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/03/21/trump-wont-allow-you-to-use-ipads-or-laptops-on-certain-airlines-heres-the-underlying-story/
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gastropod  2017-03-21 20:43
Except that the ban is on 10 airports, not carriers, and a slightly smaller ban applies to the UK as well. There are currently no US/UK direct flights to/from those airports by American carriers.

A more interesting hypothesis brought up by a number of commenters at Ars Technica is that this opens up the possibility of easy 'evil baggage handler' attacks, ala 'evil maid" attacks. The three-letter agencies will know for certain which travelers' bags to target, and they can do it easily with the TSA open-all keys. Physical access beats remote hacks any day, and many of the hacks are to replace the firmware or add special components to the motherboard, so merely encrypting, or wiping your drive later, won't get rid of it. Once the limited ban becomes old news and accepted, it's easy to spread it to more flights. Adding cameras in the ban is good camouflage.

Tourism to the US was already down 7%. This will make it plummet faster and further, costing an awful lot of jobs.
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Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-03-21 23:07
I don't think there's any purely Trumpian motive here or the UK wouldn't have signed on. And apparently now Canada is considering it, so I think there's definitely a tangible threat here.
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gastropod  2017-03-22 00:05
Possibly there is some intel, and I doubt it's directly Trump, but I'd be shocked if the TLAs don't happily take advantage of it. At best the ban is pure theater--it does nothing to address the threat, it increases risks of fires and explosions in the cargo compartments because there will be a higher lithium battery density, and it's going to increase the clobbering of the US tourist industry. Anyone really wanting to hide an explosive in a laptop or DSLR is simply going to fly from any of the other airports in the world that don't have the ban.

What odds will you give that the ban is lifted vs expanded over the next 6 months?
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Curtis Wilcox  An apple icon for a Friend of TidBITS 2017-03-21 19:51
I think the above should be rephrased to make it clear that the devices are banned as carry-ons, they're still permitted in checked baggage.
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Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-03-21 23:15
Good point! I've made that clear.
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